Muckraker: Grist on Politics

More environmental groups are calling on the U.S. EPA to consider biofuels’ life-cycle greenhouse-gas emissions as the agency draws up rules for the Renewable Fuel Standard. The groups want to make sure that any emissions resulting from land-use changes are taken into consideration.

On Oct. 21, a handful of biofuel-industry representatives and academics asked EPA to exclude life-cycle GHG info from its rulemaking, even though the 2007 energy bill explicitly requires that it be considered. In their letter, they argue that there are not yet good methods to measure the emissions.

Enviros disagree. Three green groups responded on Oct. 31 by sending a letter [PDF] urging EPA to consider life-cycle emissions. Now more groups — Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resource Defense Council, Friends of the Earth, Union of Concerned Scientists, and the Environmental Working Group — have weighed in with another letter [PDF]:

There are ongoing debates about the best approach to modeling these emissions, but the science and economic analysis suggests that indirect emissions associated with some sources of biomass are significant. Moving ahead with a rule but delaying or omitting the inclusion of indirect land use effects in the model would be equivalent to assigning these effects a zero value, which is clearly not supported by the science.

The groups conclude:

We are convinced that it is technically practical and environmentally and legally critical for EPA to follow the requirements of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 and include indirect effects in its analysis of lifecycle GHG emissions from biofuels production. Excluding indirect land use in the RFS would intentionally distort the accounting and subvert the goals of the legislation.